Never Surrender

In the movie The Out of Towners, Henry Clark (played by Steve Martin) is an Ohio advertising executive married to his former business partner Nancy (played by Goldie Hawn). The following interaction is a discussion of their ho-hum marriage:

Nancy: Henry, you know what this is?

Henry: What is it?

Nancy: It's a test. I mean, here we are in the middle of our lives and we have a decision to make. Are we on a slow march toward death or are we going to embrace life?

Henry: Slow march toward death?

Nancy: No, embrace life. I want to LIVE! I want to feel useful. I want to explore and experience. I want to suck the marrow out of life, Henry. What do you want?

Henry: Well, I definitely want to do some marrow-sucking, but otherwise I think I just want to catch up on my reading, and you know, fix those kitchen cabinets that are broken.

Nancy: That's it? That's all you want to do? Just sit home fixing things and reading for the rest of your life? I don't know how I fit into that plan, Henry. All you need is a good light and a hammer.

We may chuckle at this scenario, but in reality far too many married couples feel like their marriage resembles a "slow march to death." You may be one of them. Perhaps the initial thrill of falling in love and pledging your devotion forever to your sweetheart wilted long ago like your wedding bouquet.

So what happens when that lovin' feeling dissipates and you are smack in the middle of the daily realities of marriage? "She is trying to find herself and seems bored with our relationship." "With the kids, there's little time for romance." "He's gained 40 pounds since our wedding day and is nothing but a grouch." "My old college flame is now single again and wants to see me."

At some point in marriage, the grass will look greener in other pastures. Whether in the afterglow of an argument or in the fatigue of family and career pressures, you may question your decision to stand by your spouse "for better or for worse." When the "worse" seems to overshadow the "better," you need to cling to this truth: feelings come and go; commitment does not.

In Hebrew, Greek and Latin, origins of the word "commit" all mean to cling, cleave, connect or stick. Unfortunately in our freewheeling society, many couples reason they are stuck in marriage instead of determining to stick to marriage. Our culture feeds the consumer mindset of obsolescence in which people continually toss or trade in products even relationships that no longer satisfy their expectations.

God never intended marriage to be a test-drive relationship, but a binding pledge of permanence. When the Creator established the blueprints for marriage He stated, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). God designed marriage as a lasting "one flesh" union between a man and a woman. God knew from the beginning that marriage would not be about convenience, but commitment. Commitments of life-changing proportions are never struggle-free.

Developing loyalty and fidelity to your spouse especially in conflicts and chaos takes day-by-day determination. Each of you may need to make adjustments in your attitudes and actions. Look in the mirror and own up to your own shortcomings. If you are a nagger, try nit-picking less. Instead of complaining, try complimenting. If you are bossy, ease up on your demands. Do not base your personal contentment on your spouse. When you focus more on your mate's loveable qualities, his or her unlovely traits began to pale in comparison.

An age-old Navy expression illustrates the total commitment involved in marriage vows. As a Navy ship headed into battle, the captain would cry out, "Surrender is not contemplated." The resolute captain would then order the colors of the ship's flag be nailed at the top of the mast. In the heat of battle, no one could lower the high-flying flag and raise the flag of surrender. Surrender was not an option and the crew could then focus their minds on how to best win in conflict.

The same unyielding commitment without surrender is required in marriage. There are times when you'll feel like raising the flag and throwing in the towel. Hold fast. Many husbands and wives who have weathered a marriage on the rocks, later acknowledge, "The main thing that kept me in this marriage was that on my wedding day I made a vow not just to my spouse, but to God."

Commitment is a daily choice. Loving your spouse doesn't always come easily. In the midst of life's battles, when the surrender flag would be easiest to raise, choose to fight for your marriage. The payoff of commitment is amazing. It's the catalyst to a deeper, lasting, forever love.

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